Delvin Breaux feels like a man sitting at a stoplight on his way to the show of a lifetime, desperately trying to will it to turn green so the waiting will finally come to an end.
He’s so close.
Breaux, who broke his fibula in the season opener, no longer has any hurdles to clear in terms of pain tolerance as he tries to return the lineup; he feels like he’s “115 percent.”
Now, he has to prove that he’s knocked enough rust off to rejoin the Saints’ defense without missing a beat.
“No soreness, I feel great,” Breaux said. “It’s just going to be basically on the coaches watching film, seeing how I’m reacting to receivers and seeing if I’m doing the necessary things to help us win.”
Breaux, who has practiced on a limited basis for the better part of two weeks, cleared the final hurdle on Wednesday, taking his first snaps in full team sessions since the injury.
“First day, got a few little kinks but just go to keep working, man,” Breaux said. “I just want to get back in the groove with everything and continue to keep helping these guys win.”
A healthy Breaux could completely change the outlook for a Saints defense that has only gotten bad injury news at the cornerback position since training camp.
First veteran Keenan Lewis’s inability to recover from a hip injury forced New Orleans to release him, then second-year man Damian Swann went on injured reserve.
New Orleans still opened the season confident at cornerback, flush with up-and-coming starters in Breaux, who established himself as a bona fide No. 1 cover man as a rookie last year, and promising second-year player P.J. Williams.
Then the Saints lost Breaux and Williams in back-to-back weeks, and replacement Sterling Moore went down with an abdomen injury two weeks ago against Carolina.
Now, Breaux and Moore are back practicing on a limited basis, offering hope that the Saints can get as close to full strength at the position as they’ve been since the third quarter of the season opener.
“It’s good to see all these guys back out there receiving some work,” Saints coach Sean Payton said last week.
New Orleans has started to make some defensive strides in the past two games, relying on three-safety looks to slow down Kansas City in the second half and make key stops against the Seattle Seahawks in an upset win last week.
If he does come back, Breaux wants to make sure he can keep that momentum rolling.
“No pressure,” Breaux said. “I just want to come in and keep these guys trending up. We’re trending in the right direction right now.”
Bringing Breaux back would open up a whole new realm of possibilities for defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
“Any time you lose a player like him, it hurts you as a group. He’s a guy that we feel like that we can put out there and he’s going to win his matchup, regardless of who he’s going against,” Allen said during the bye week. “And when we have that, certainly, from a play-caller’s standpoint, it makes things easier as to what you feel like you can do and what you feel like you can call.”
New Orleans might not get the full Breaux back right away.
Breaux could return on a limited basis, playing in certain personnel groups and situations if the Saints want to ease him back into action. Breaux feels like he could play a full game right now.
“I don’t know what the coach is thinking. I can say I’m ready, but as far as what they’re thinking and a snap count or am I physically in good shape to play, that would definitely be their decision,” Breaux said. “If I do come back I’m just going to play my role, whatever they want me to do.”
Breaux isn’t sure when the Saints will make their decision.
All he knows is that he can’t wait for that light to finally turn.
“I try to keep my anxiety down, but man, it’s exciting just to know how close I am to getting back on the field and playing with these guys,” Breaux said. “I can’t wait. I can’t wait for the green light.”